The Discord Trilogy

 
 

Dacian Soldier Lunet

This takes place between chapters two and seven in The Golden Apple of Discord - Lunet of the Dacian Vampire coven.

 

What went wrong? Draco trained us to turn her and keep her under Cothelas’s verbal mind control. She is not only able to use his power; she also cannot be contained by it.


Taralie.


Now my Haruni is dead at her hand, and Taralie has Cothelas immobilized, her arm around his throat. Our Dacian king says, “Move to the door. Do not let her leave.”


Like hearing your own heartbeat, but being unable to alter it, I obey his command.


Taralie squeezes his throat and looks to my coven mates and me. “Move to the far corner of the room.”


We can no more resist her than we can resist Cothelas.


Our feet shuffle, stopping only when they can go no farther. Taralie moves to the door, dragging Cothelas as a barrier between us. He tries to speak, but she tightens her vice grip on his throat. Then the flesh of his neck yields in the crook of her arm.


His body collapses to the floor, his head still hanging in her hands.


This scene is unreal. Cothelas, a vampire so mighty even the Noricum's Prince Verus fears him, lies heaped on the floor. He was an ancient one, the most powerful of our kind.


Taralie flings his head to the floor and flees. Even as the motor boat pulls away, I dare not follow her.


He is so still, so very, very still.


Jola kneels by the body of her Socious, weeping like I had been just a few short hours ago. We suffered much for this half-witch. She was supposed to overthrow the Noricum usurpers and place our kings on their rightful thrones. How will we tell Draco of this failure? How can we ever face him? It was not supposed to be like this.


Over Jola’s cries, Julian says, “Lunet.”


Jola… What will happen to her now?


“Lunet!”


I snap my gaze to Julian by the door. “What!”


“Is Taralie still within your range?”


“You mean to go after her?” I hiss. There is no way we can capture her. Cothelas was the only reason we had a chance in the first place.


“She is less of a threat now that Cothelas is dead. We cannot return to Draco empty-handed.”


I was once Draco’s golden apple. Taralie may have been my replacement, but I still have my uses. If Julian fails, he is of no value to our king.


King… We only have one king left.


“Draco failed to anticipate her resistance to Cothelas. If he wants to blame anyone for returning empty-handed, he can blame himself.”


Julian and Begonia both relax their shoulders a bit. Like the rest of us, they know Draco is patient and does not act precipitously. Nor should we.


In only a few minutes Taralie’s power leaves my range, leaving us with nothing but a dead Dacian.


Julian says, “We should leave for Brasov. I will deliver this news in person.”


Jola sniffles. “What about…?”


Begonia kneels down to the floor with her, sullying her dress with our king’s blood. “What would he want?”


Jola weeps uncontrollably. We need to get back to Draco, to safety, and the only thing she can do is bawl. Haruni was killed by that witch, and here I stand, fulfilling my duty. Duty first, love second—it is the Milunfran way I was taught as a child.


Jola cries, “I cannot, I do not know!”


Begonia looks to her Socius, Julian, asking for answers with her eyes.


“Jola,” Julian says, “leave this to us.”


He nods and Begonia pulls Jola to her feet and out of the room. The scrape of the metal door drowns out her sobbing.


Julian turns toward me. “Burn him,” I say. “Leave no trace of us here. If the witches find this place, they will learn more about us than we want.”


Julian replies, “You and Draco said Milunfran spells and enchantments are of no use on us.”


“Draco also said Taralie would be held under mind control until she was conditioned to be our ally. Burn him.”


I leave him to the task and start thinking about how we will get to land. Taralie took far more than our boat.


-X-


The ten-hour flight out of Toronto passes too quickly. The two-hour drive to Brasov moves faster still. When Draco’s power enters my range, it is accompanied by foreboding. He stalked the Severin sisters for years, Taralie in particular. He said her power would be beyond anything we could imagine.


He was right.


Begonia opens the throne room door. Daichi is against the wall and looks to us with confusion on his face. Our group looks much different than when we departed Bran Castle.


Draco sits on his gold throne, his chin resting on his hand. The identical throne beside him will remain empty forever.


Draco’s mistress Odessa stands to the side of the dais. Petrov, Cyril, Jason, Deke, Anca, and Bao all stand against the walls. Clarissa is missing. It is not like Petrov to leave his Socious, but she has no love of the throne room, and, being only a decade-old vampire, she has little to offer us in the way of experience.


Julian, Begonia, Jola, and I stop several meters in front of the throne and bow; then Julian steps forward.


“Sire, you charged Cothelas to turn the halfling witch, control her, and bring her into your service. Haruni, Socius of the half-witch Lunet, perished during the abduction. I am sorry to report that Cothelas’s power held no sway over Lady Taralie and she killed him moments after her transformation was complete.”


The room fills with gasps, and my coven mates look to our last king. Draco is still as ever; he didn’t even flinch over my beloved Haruni’s or Cothelas’s murders. I wonder how he regards his precious golden apple now.


Draco speaks quietly. “Julian, tell me everything.”


Julian swallows thickly.


Draco once told me something High King Priam of the Noricum used to say. “Do not fear the raging king. Fear the one who will not be seen.” Draco may yet kill us for our failure.


“We cornered her in their basement. She had an elixir that she commanded to combust, and Haruni fell quickly. After her abduction, the transformation took hours longer than Lunet’s and only ceased when we removed her casting crystal. Her waking confusion lasted only seconds. She immediately took Cothelas as a hostage and used his voice against us. The king commanded her to release him, but the command held no sway. By the sheer force of her grip around his neck, she decapitated him. I burned the remnants as to leave no trace.”


Draco nods. “Leave me, all of you.”


Everyone withdraws from the throne room, eager to avoid any forthcoming wrath. When I enter my quarters, Haruni’s coat over a chair forces the wretched witch’s face to mind. He really is gone. Never again will we love.


I knew Taralie was dangerous. I never should have let Haruni go without me. Jola’s screams echo across the castle, cursing Taralie. Why do I not feel the hatred toward Taralie I hear in Jola’s voice? Is it because once upon a time I was the halfling earth witch?


I was raised as a full-blood earth witch, and my blood power in human form was much like Taralie’s: to feel and understand the powers others possess. Taralie had an advantage; she could channel what I could only see. Normally a mimic’s power is like Taralie’s, but I was still useful. In Milunfran life, when a child was born, I told the Samanos of their power.


I was fifteen when my world crumbled.


When it came time to wed, a prescient in my mother’s coven had a vision that my children would not have blood powers. There could be only one reason for that, and because she had no choice, Mother revealed my true parentage and Father’s secret.


She was not a full Milunfran, but a halfling, and was not always faithful to her husband, the man I thought was my father. I only possessed a quarter of Milunfran heritage in my veins.


Her shame was great, but I bore the punishment.


I was a burden, incapable of bearing Milunfran children. Outcast and alone, I traveled south, finding work in Thuringia, Germany, as a factory worker in porcelain manufacturing. Every day I cried for my lost way of life until I had no more tears left. For ten years I slaved away, the wages barely keeping me alive.


One winter evening, I walked toward the room I rented above a brothel. It was bitterly cold and I couldn’t afford coal for the tiny oven I had salvaged from an estate fire the previous winter. The frozen mud in the streets was a comfort, because come spring, my only pair of boots would be worn through, and replacing them took a month’s wages.


This was going to be my life. I was going to die in that factory, hungry and with holes in my shoes.


The strangely clear night reminded me of the lessons that guided me through childhood. So many planets aligned would be a time for rituals and celebrations. Festivities I would never be a part of. A single tear rolled down my cheek, in memory of what I could have become. 


I barely heard the man calling my name over the sound of wagons and horses moving down the street. I pretended I did not hear them and increased my speed.


When two well-dressed men approach a woman like me, it does not typically end well for the woman.


He called out again and asked if I was Lunet of the Milunfran Saxony coven. I turned to face them. I had not used my power for years; it took me a moment longer to realize they had powerful abilities.


One had the power to physically transport himself in an instantaneous way. The Milunfran stekie could transport a consciousness, but to do so physically? It was unheard of!  The other well-dressed man could bend your will to his by the sound of his voice.


Saying nothing, I clutched my shawl around me. The taller of the two men took a step back. He said that he did not mean to frighten me but he had been seeking me for some time. He said I was wanted, but not by my coven. He promised me warmth and food and that I would not be violated.


From his clothes alone I knew he had the means to offer what he said. As I looked up at the planets once again, my only thought was that I did not want to die in that factory. If I died around a warm fire with a full belly, it was better than eternally slaving away for what I could never have… the chance to be a part of a people again.


I was changed into a vampire that very night.


The agony of dying was not at all what I expected, but at the end I was reborn. When I drank my first human, I was alive and empowered. For years I had shuffled through an inhumane existence, and now I would never want again. My connection to Earth vanished, but she, and my coven, abandoned me long ago. The increase of my blood power’s range more than made up for anything I lost; kilometers of awareness were mine to watch.


Even though I wanted to, Draco forbid me from waging war on my former coven. Instead he turned my attention to education. I was taught to read, write, hunt, and was given the privilege of changing three humans into vampires. One of those became my Socious, Haruni.


As the years passed, Draco’s training turned to expectation, then disappointment. I did not know what he expected me to deliver, and he refused to give me any further information, saying that if I did not know, he could not teach me. Haruni was my safe harbor, loving and kind as my Milunfran coven used to be.


One evening in the late 1970s, piles of star charts were laid out on a table in the castle library. The handwritten notations were in Draco’s hand, indicating an upcoming planetary alignment. Looking further, I saw it was the same alignment that peaked the night I was changed in 1802.


The Dacian kings’ finding me on that cold winter night was no accident. When I asked Draco about it, he told me I had failed and was being replaced. He spoke of a greater power, one that could overthrow the Noricum and reclaim our rightful place in the world. This time, Draco failed me.


-X-


Draco comes and goes. Nearly a week passes with no word of Taralie. I failed to bring Draco his new golden apple, instead bringing news of Cothelas’s death. Taralie must pay for killing my love, but a small part of me does not hate her.


That part of me remembers being a witch, like her. Under other circumstances we may have become friends, but my loyalty is to Draco, who saved me from the factories. I will not hesitate to kill her if ordered.


Suddenly, Draco appears in my chambers. I rise and bow. “Yes, sire?”


“Many years ago, you asked me to wage war on the Milunfra. I am now giving you that opportunity. You will take Julian and three others of your choosing without powers Taralie can use. Under no circumstances will you allow Coralia to live. Even as a human witch she is powerful enough to cause us concern. You will hold Augusta and Arianna hostage until Taralie joins us. Lady Taralie has started feeding in Toronto and it is only a matter of time before the Noricum become involved. If Verus reads her… They will know of Cothelas’s death and nothing will stop them from marching down on us. Can you handle this?”


His order brings a smile to my face. I may not be able to kill the new golden apple, but I can make her suffer.


“Yes, sire. I will want Daichi. He can tell if Taralie will lie to appease me when I have her sister’s throat in my hands.”


He stares at me, stroking his fingers behind his ear. “The Milunfra were foolish to discard you. I have every confidence you will do well.”


And with that, he vanishes.


Yes, the Milunfra were foolish to discard me.  Now their sins will be brought to bear on their Toronto coven.


One by one, Draco transports Julian, Begonia, Jola, Daichi, and me to Toronto. If she is feeding here, I suspect she returned home to her sisters after fleeing the barge. Draco jumps away, making sure his power is not within Taralie's range and thus, does not have the means to escape. Running at full speed in the early morning hours, we descend on the Severin home.


Something is wrong.


I cannot feel any of their powers, the house is dark, the windows are blown out, and glass is scattered through the snow.


Julian also sees this and motions for us to remain silent.


The scene inside the house is even more savage.


Furniture is overturned, while picture frames are embedded in walls. A terrible battle happened here, but what concerns me is a resonance of energy. The walls drip with Milunfran power.


Julian whispers, “Lunet, what caused this?”


“Nothing good.”


“Do you not feel their powers?”


“They are not within eight kilometers of this place.”


Julian says to Jola, “Check their sleeping chambers for personal items, please.”


Jola does so quickly. She is out for blood; her…our rage will serve us well.


Daichi checks the driveway. “Their larger vehicle is gone. The other two are still here.”


Begonia asks, “Where would they go? Are they even alive?”


I think back to when I was rejected by my coven. There was one place I wanted to be.


“If they are still alive, they will go to their human father on Prince Edward Island.”


Daichi asks, “How do you know that?”


“Once an earth witch, always an earth witch, and we always think of our roots.”


Begonia touches the wall and jumps a bit when she does. “What if they are not alive?”


“Then they are dead, but I can promise you, whatever battle caused this tomb, we want no part of. It is beyond my knowledge.”


Jola comes down the stairs. “Their personal effects are untouched. If they left here, they did so in haste.”


I look at the destruction. “Yes, they did.”


We quickly depart toward their childhood home. The human father will be most convenient. He is defenseless against us, and I have every confidence they will return to him sooner or later.


Several hours later, the witch's powers come into my range. My theory has been proven, and they are ours for the taking.


“I feel their powers. Ready yourselves.”


Julian says, “Jola, Begonia, and I will kill Coralia. Lunet and Daichi, I leave it to you to apprehend Augusta or Arianna, whichever one is easiest.”


I say, “In an area this remote, they will be in a vehicle. Keep to the road.”


Numbers are on our side, but time is on Taralie’s. After taking a moment to inspect her talent, I see that her range is equal to mine. Our approach can use neither the element of surprise, nor a visible assault. We must get close enough to blindside Coralia. A few minutes after sensing them, I catch my first glimpse of the car. The behemoth of a vehicle jerks across lane markers, trying to escape. In an area as desolate and heavily forested as this, they have made it too easy for us. They are all there. No loose ends and no witnesses to clean up afterwards.


Our immense running speed makes the vehicle easy to catch up to. The gap between us will not be there for long.


A car window lowers and Coralia sits on the window frame. She waves her arm, trying to repel us, but we are too far away. Arianna is next, trying to flick what looks like a whip. After one of their window shatters from the whip, she retreats inside the vehicle. The road turns a corner and then I see a ravine. If we can run the car off the side and save Arianna or Augusta, Coralia will plummet to her death and Taralie will survive the crash. They are within fifty yards, right over the middle of the ravine. It’s almost too easy.


The car slows once they reach the bridge, and Coralia throws a bottle on the pavement.


Suddenly a huge ring of fire surrounds the bridge, yards in front of us. The flames are scalding and angry, wrapping underneath the bridge and blocking our path. Everyone slides to a halt.


“HOW?” Julian shouts.


This is craft I would expect from a seasoned full-blood, not an infant halfling of only four years in the craft. The fire eats through the structure, crumbling pavement and melting the railing.


Several seconds later, the fire starts to die. Just before the ring of fire collapses, Coralia throws another vial at the other end of the bridge and they continue speeding away. Before we can move onto the bridge, the other end explodes in a pillar of fire. The percussive shockwave blows everyone onto their backs.


They combined fire and air.


The next sound tells me I underestimated these witches. Tearing metal signals the collapse of the bridge. A menacing tower of flames, the biggest weakness of vampires, blocks our path. Such a demonstration of elemental power has not met my eyes since my days as a witch. Daichi pulls me back from the bridge as it collapses completely.


We retreat to the forest and watch the emergency vehicles arrive and rope off the area. This is the second time we have been bested by the witches. We cannot fail again.


It takes another fourteen hours to reach Prince Edward Island. When we arrive, the empty house tells us the witches have moved their father. Clothes and other personal items are gone, but hanging from a knife on the inside of the front door is their taunting note.


“Two down, three to go.”


I will enjoy watching Coralia die. I owe Haruni that much.


Although the father is not here presently, he must come back sometime. Hours tick by and we wait, but eventually Jola grows impatient.


“If they do not return by eight o’clock this evening, the neighbors die until they do return. I will not wait forever to avenge Cothelas.”


Inwardly I scoff at her petulance. This is not about vengeance; this is about justice. The justice of Dacians’ taking what is rightfully theirs. Taralie suffering Coralia’s death is an additional gift.


Julian says, “Very well. I know Draco expects results soon, and this may be the only way to get their attention. If the prescient witch can see what Draco claims, we may not have to eat so many as to draw undue attention from the Noricum.”


Silence stretches out, but I am grateful for it. At least I do not have to listen to Jola whine.


Without warning, movement from the kitchen startles everyone and I jump out of my chair. What we see should not be possible.


Taralie walks into the living room in stekie form. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”


“Powerful, indeed. I am Julian.”


Taralie seethes. “And I’m pissed.”


What right does she have to be angry? She did not just lose her Socious!


She taunts, “Tell me. Is mental illness common among vampires?”


Julian replies, “I apologize, Lady Taralie. You confound me.”


“Suicidal tendencies. You clearly have them, since you plan to hunt my father should he not return by eight.”


Draco is correct. Their prescient sees many things.


Julian says, “I see Augusta’s talents are being put to good use. We desire to speak with you, and your father was our only option. You are needed.”


She has the audacity to roll her eyes. “What are your names?”


Julian answers her question. It is good that he speaks, as I do not know if I could be civil. The fact remains that we do not know where they are and cannot kill Coralia until we do.


Taralie sneers. “Well, then, Julian, Begonia, Lunet, Jola, and Daichi, I’ll save you the trouble of looking for us. If you ever lay eyes on my father, he will be the last person you see. We will hunt your coven to extinction.”


I want to laugh at the idea that they could ever kill Draco. Julian wisely takes the more diplomatic approach. “You need not do that. We mean you no harm. We want you to live, but if you attack us, we will have no choice but to kill you.”


She laughs. “You could try. I killed one of you as a mortal witch and another within seconds of my conversion, and it’s not just me anymore.”


That makes no sense. I ask, “What do you mean?”


“I mean the Taeleoni are witches no more.”


“Liar. You would never do that to them.”


Then Arianna appears behind her, looking just as strong as her eldest sister.


If this is true, we have utterly and completely failed. All four of them as vampires will constitute a force that could never be controlled. Taralie alone was enough to challenge the Noricum, but all of them?


“Even Coralia?”


Especially Coralia.”


Pursuing them is suicide.


Now we must tell Draco his golden apple is forever beyond our reach.


-X-

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